Actor and writer John Cairney, known for his portrayal of Robert Burns and pivotal role at the Edinburgh Fringe festival has died at the age of 93.

An extraordinarily vivid character and a uniquely talented performer, he forged a successful and influential career in the arts from the unlikely beginnings of Parkhead in Glasgow.

Born on 16 February 1930 in Baillieston to Thomas Cairney and Mary Coyle, with his brother, Jim, becoming a professional footballer.

Though he was a lifelong devotee of Celtic - for whom his brother made four appearances - it was the stage rather than the pitch which called to Mr Cairney.

He trained at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama where he met his first wife, Sheila Cowan. They were married in 1954 and went on to have five children, Jennifer, Alison, Lesley, Jane and Jonathan.

The family lived for several years in Dunfermline.

In an interview with the Press in 2000, John spoke of his life since leaving West Fife in the 1970s ahead of a talk he was giving at the Glen Pavilion about his one-man Burns show.

The article reflected back to a previous insight given in the paper written when he was raising his five children from his home at Pinegrove House, Lassodie and contemplating creating a theatre by the nearby loch. 

After moving to New Zealand to be with his second wife, he described his life as "idyllic".

Speaking in 2000, he reflected: "I'm very pleased with the outcome of my life both personally and professionally," he said. "When I was 45, I thought I was in my prime but I wasn't, I'm in my prime now. This is a great time. The biggest bluff about old age is that it is a time to rest and give up. It's a time to get started. You are as free when you're old as when you're young."

Cairney appeared in the British debut of Arthur Miller's The Crucible at the Bristol Old Vic in the same year, and became a star of both stage and screen.

His performances as Hamlet in his native Glasgow were so popular that queues would form around the block to see the play at the Citizen's Theatre.

Cairney appeared in A Night To Remember, the Golden Globe winning film which recounted the sinking of the Titanic, as well as Jason and the Argonauts, Cleopatra and many more.

On stage he played Becket in Murder in the Cathedral at the Edinburgh Festival and, famously, Macbeth, in Richard Demarco’s production on Inchcolm Island.

However, it was with Scotland's national bard that Cairney was most indelibly associated.

In 1965, he performed a one-man show written by the poet and playwright, Tom Wright in which he recited the works for Robert Burns for over three hours.

While it wasn't the first solo show to be performed at the Fringe, his masterful take is credited with carving out a space for literature at the festival which endures to this day.

Presented at the Traverse Theatre for a one-week trial run, There Was A Man ran for two months due to the phenomenal demand for tickets and was named by Playbill as one of the most pivotal moment's in the festival's history.

The show was televised twice and recorded as a best selling album, and Cairney would be associated with Burns for the rest of his career.

Dunfermline Press: John Cairney as Robert Burns

In 1968 he wrote and starred in a six-week television adaptation of the Robert Burns Story for STV, wrote a screenplay for a film which ultimately went unmade and organised the first ever Burns Festival in Ayr, near the bard's birthplace of Alloway.

His television work included the serial This Man Craig, Elizabeth R, Dr Finlay’s Casebook and Jackanory, among others.

As he performed less, Cairney returned to an early love of painting, enjoying considerable success as an artist with several prestigious commissions and successful exhibitions.

In 1980 he married New Zealand actor Alannah O’Sullivan, with the pair subsequently spending 18 years in her homeland.

They enjoyed a long and very happy marriage as well as performing regularly on stage together. 

Throughout his long life and alongside his many creative adventures, classical music and the Catholic Church were constants and both brought great comfort. Also long standing were his relationships with a wide circle of friends, in Scotland, New Zealand and around the world, many of whom had been trusted allies since boyhood.

The freedom of the career he had created was important to Cairney but he also loved the company of a ‘good table’ and he would attempt the harmony to every tune he ever heard. His family like to think of him in his study, a glass of red poured and a pot of minestrone bubbling away for lunch. Verdi on the radio, Alannah by his side, a good pen in his hand and, in front of him, a pristine sheet of white paper.

An incredibly gifted performer, blessed with magnetism, looks, charm and sheer talent, he was never happier than when, having given his best on stage, he received the ultimate mark of appreciation from the audience: a moment of perfect silence.

He is survived by second wife Alannah O’Sullivan, children Jennifer, Alison, Lesley, Jane and Jonathan, nine grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.